In order to get out of the chit fund mess in the wake of the Saradha group going bust,Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today announced the setting up of an inquiry commission to be headed by a retired Calcutta High Court judge.
The state government also declared that an ordinance will be promulgated to regulate chit fund companies and similar financial operations that have duped millions of investors in the state. The ordinance will be in force as long as a foolproof legislation is not brought,said Mamata.
The announcements came even as thousands of investors and agents of the Saradha group of companies and other similar firms took to the streets across the state. In Kolkata,several hundred assembled near the Gandhi statue while West Bengal Youth Congress supporters marched to Writers in the afternoon before being arrested.
The chief minister also set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT),headed by Director General of Police Naparajit Mukherjee,to investigate complaints pouring in against the Saradha group and other prize money circulation companies popularly called chit funds. The police have already arrested several persons,including a Saradha director,and more arrests and raids are on,said Mamata.
The chief minister has also requested the Central government and the Presidents office to return a bill regarding regulation of chit fund business which had been sent by the earlier Left Front government for presidential assent. As long as the old bill is not withdrawn,the present government cannot bring a new legislation that is more exhaustive and ready for implementation to regulate the chit fund business in West Bengal,she added.
Giving details about the inquiry committee,to be headed by Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen (retired),Mamata explained that the panel will be vested with sweeping powers including the power to issue search and seizure operations and to attach property. It will be empowered to direct police to carry out raids and arrest as and when necessary.
Clarifying the role of the commission,Mamata said it will entertain complaints regarding chit fund companies and loss of deposits by investors,and it will not be restricted to Saradhas operations. She urged investors who had lost money to approach the commission and record their grievances. I am concerned about millions of depositors who have suffered,I am not concerned about individuals, she said.
Asked if her government was committed to returning the investors money,she flared up and said that the main damage was done by the Left Front regime that had sheltered these companies. The CPM cheated the people for decades,so let them pay back the peoples money first. This government will take care of the rest, she said.
This will be the 12th commission of inquiry set up under the Commission of Enquiry Act,1952,in the state since the present government came to power two years back. Out of the 11 commissions,only one commission has submitted its report so far.
Apart from Justice Sen,the commission will consist of a retired IPS officer,a person from the corporate world and a public figure,most probably an economist. The commission will look into how much money has been laundered,who all were the depositors,how much money is involved and how we can return the money, Mamata told mediapersons after a high-level meeting at Writers Buildings.
When contacted,Justice Sen said he had not yet received any notification. I was approached by the government and I have given my consent. It will be a high-powered commission,I have heard, Sen told The Indian Express.
The government is still working on the names of the other members of the committee,Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee said.
Announcing the formation of the SIT led by the DGP,Mamata said: I am rough and tough and am determined to protect the interests of the lakhs of people who invested in the funds and are suffering now.